Schrafft’s was a chain of restaurants, with a candy store attached, that catered to ladies who lunch. To NPR’s Lynn Neary, who used to waitress there, Schrafft’s “always felt like the epicenter of the comfort zone.” MCNY/Gottscho-Schleisner/Getty Imageshide caption
I believe I am one of the few people in the world who actually had tickets to Woodstock. Of course, I never got a chance to use them, because on the first day of the festival, I was filling up relish trays and taking dinner orders from customers at Schrafft’s.
All this came back to me in a rush of memories when I picked up the new bookTen Restaurants that Changed America. Schrafft’s was one of the restaurants listed. “Really”? I thought. “Schrafft’s changed America?”
This was a chain of tastefully decorated havens where ladies gathered for light lunches or ice cream and sweets. It always seemed like the epicenter of the comfort zone to me, a place that change zipped past in a hurry to get someplace more interesting.
The fountain counter at Schrafft’s on Broadway, New York City, circa 1940. Library of Congresshide caption
toggle captionLibrary of Congress
As a kid I loved Schrafft’s. I have fond memories of excursions into “the city” with my mother. They started with a train ride that emptied us into New York City’s Grand Central station, then out into the street, where millions of people rushed by me as I held tightly to my mother’s hand. If it was a shopping trip, we’d head to my mother’s favorite store on Fifth Ave., Lord and Taylor’s, which just happened to be right across the street from Schrafft’s. And that meant we always ended the day with a hot fudge sundae at the counter at Schrafft’s. No one has ever been able to match the pure deliciousness of Schrafft’s hot fudge.
Eventually, Schrafft’s opened a restaurant in suburban Westchester County. And I got my first summer job there. This was no glamour waitressing job. This was hard core. In addition to a very unflattering uniform, all waitresses had to wear a ridiculously unflattering hair net and shoes that were the very definition of clodhoppers. And this is where I found myself in the summer of 1969. Think about that for a minute. A lot was going on in the summer 1969. I watched men land on the moon while standing in the lobby of Schrafft’s in between serving pot roast and apple pie.
And then there was Woodstock.
I had to work the first night of the festival but planned to meet up with my friends the next day. By the time I got off work, it was clear that something was happening on that farm in upstate New York that no one had anticipated. By the next morning, the New York State Thruway was backed up practically to the Tappan Zee bridge. The news was rife with stories of unsanitary conditions and a lack of food, shelter and medical supplies. Oh yeah, and by then, Woodstock had turned into a free concert. A lot of the kids who showed up for the festival weren’t inclined to pay for it anyway. So, no, I didn’t end up joining them. The idea of getting stuck in the mud was distinctly unappealing. Besides, my mother didn’t want me to go.
Let’s face it, girls who worked at Schrafft’s, bought tickets to the biggest free rock concert of the century and actually listened to their mothers would have been a distinct minority at Woodstock … a minority of one, I suspect.
Police spokesman Sgt. Mark Francis told reporters that the man is armed with a “long gun, a rifle-type gun.” He said the suspect is a Hispanic male in his 20s or 30s. “He was wearing all black … and he had kind of a close haircut, his hair was kind of scruffy,” Francis said. He released a photo of the suspected shooter on Twitter.
“We believe at this point one lone shooter,” Francis said. “This investigation will be ongoing, and whether or not someone helped him out in some way is yet to be determined.” The FBI said on Twitter that it is assisting with intelligence review and manpower and adds that it “has no information to suggest additional attacks planned in WA state.”
Authorities had initially reported four female victims who died at the scene. A 5th victim, who is male, later died in the hospital, as Francis tweeted.
Burlington is about 65 miles north of Seattle.
This is the second violent incident at a U.S. mall in less than a week. Last Saturday evening, an assailant at a mall in St. Cloud, Minn. stabbed nine people before he was shot dead by an off-duty police officer.
Willie Harris became a stuntman in the 1960s. Luisa Conlonhide caption
toggle captionLuisa Conlon
When the National Museum of African American History and Culture opens to the public on Saturday afternoon, there will be a lot of artifacts on display — everything from Frederick Douglass’ formal portrait to a shiny, cherry-red Cadillac convertible that R&B king Chuck Berry once drove onstage. There will also be parts of hidden African American history that are, for many, being made visible for the first time. That’s where Willie Harris comes in.
Harris is president of the Black Stuntmen’s Association (BSA), which formed in 1967 to give black men and women a shot at the lucrative and, in some ways, glamorous Hollywood jobs that involved jumping from trains or rolling down stairs; jobs that were once reserved for white people.
Some of the original stuntmen have died, but through Harris and others, their stories will join those of other black pioneers in the newest museum to open on the National Mall. Dwandalyn Reece, curator of Music and Performing Arts at the museum, said she thought it was important to include people in all parts of the entertainment industry.
“We’re not just interested in people in front of the camera or on the stage,” she said. “Part of that story is the people who were behind the scenes, and what they’ve accomplished in the field.”
Harris and other stuntmen and women launched their careers at a time when Hollywood engaged in the lamentable practice of “painting down” white men and women so they could be the stunt doubles for black actors. That practice was first challenged by actor and comedian Bill Cosby at the height of his successful 1960s action-adventure TV series, “I Spy.” Cosby told the show’s producers, Harris recalled, that “‘no white guy is going to double me painted down.’ “
Calvin Brown became the country’s first black stuntman when he got the job as Cosby’s double. But Harris wasn’t far behind. A mutual friend introduced the two men, and soon Harris was working as an extra and not long after that, doing stunts. His first big break was a long roll down concrete steps in the 1971 movie “Dirty Harry.”
As a young Air Force veteran, Harris left his birthplace in Holmes County, Miss. because he was no longer willing to suffer the myriad indignities segregation visited upon black people. He didn’t find Hollywood much more welcoming.
“I thought out West would be different,” he said. “But in a whole lot of ways, it wasn’t.”
In the beginning, white stuntmen had no interest in sharing secrets of the trade with black men or women, Harris said. And black stuntmen were barred from the training academies that taught skills that would keep them safe. So Harris and his colleagues taught themselves.
Eventually, political pressure and common sense curtailed the practice of painting down, but apparently didn’t end it. Nonie Robinson, whose grandfather, Ernie, was one of the first black stuntmen and an early BSA member, told NPR in 2015 that the problem hadn’t so much gone away as it had gone underground.
“It’s Hollywood’s dirty little secret,” she said. “It’s still happening today.”
Robinson produced a documentary about BSA called Painted Down, which will be released next year.
Visitors to the National Museum of African American History and Culture will see some of the props the stuntmen used in their movies, along with photos of people like Jadie David, who did stunts for actress Pam Grier in Grier’s “Blaxploitation” heyday.
The stuntmen’s contributions went beyond their physical skill, says Reece, the museum curator.
“Their activities behind the scenes opened the doors for other people behind the scenes — regardless of what field you’re in,” she said. “So they were the forefathers and foremothers in opening avenues for African Americans in all walks of life in the entertainment industry.”
What the pioneer stuntmen did, Reece says, “is kind of like another one of our exhibits: it’s making a way out of no way. If people are not going to teach you and open the doors for you and (allow you to) apprentice, then you have to take it upon yourself and advocate for yourself.”
Willie Harris and the Black Stuntmen’s Association have been advocating for themselves and others for almost 50 years now. And this weekend, he and others will be at the museum’s grand opening. Many will stay around for a couple of days after to stand by their exhibit and greet visitors. That way, people can hear first-hand the part black stuntmen played in Hollywood’s evolution.
“For a long time, we were just invisible,” Harris said. “Now, they gonna see us.”
Diego, a tortoise of the endangered Chelonoidis hoodensis subspecies from Española Island, is seen in a breeding centre at the Galapagos National Park on Santa Cruz Island. RODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Imageshide caption
toggle captionRODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Images
Here’s a quick roundup of some of the mini-moments you may have missed on this week’s Morning Edition.
Deep in the Heart of Texas
In Texas, high school football serves as the focal point for Friday nights. The whole “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose” mantra is real, believe me — I was in the band.
High Schools In Texas Spend Big Bucks On Football Stadiums
As fierce as the rivalries are though, some of them can’t be left on the field for the teams to duel out. When the Allen High School Eagles’ opened their new stadium, which cost $60 million to build — yes, you read that right — the McKinney School District in the neighboring Dallas suburb decided they had the funds to compete. We learned from Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep on Monday that McKinney ISD announced that they, too, would build a new stadium with the shiny price tag of $70 million.
The Eagles’ new stadium can seat $18,000 and comes complete with a giant screen — in case you didn’t want to watch the game on the field. Yes, some things are just bigger in Texas.
Way to go, Diego!
Scientists Attribute Diego With Giving His Species A Future
Given the chance to save his species from extinction, Diego, the tortoise, answered the call.
On Monday, Morning Edition host David Greene told us that Diego lives in the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador and has around 800 offspring. So yeah, he’s a busy guy. Did we mention he’s more than 100 years old? It’s safe to say he’s given his offspring a pretty good chance for the future.
After 12 years — two of them married — and six kids, the credits are rolling on this relationship. Carl Court/AFP/Getty Imageshide caption
Does love even exist anymore? Literally, no one knows, and that’s because Angelina Jolie filed for divorce from husband Brad Pitt earlier this week, Morning Edition host David Greene reported on Wednesday. The Hollywood power couple has been married since 2014, but they’ve been together since 2004, and they have six kids together. The divorce papers showed that Angelina is requesting full physical custody for all of the children. As the divorce case continues, it might be time to find a new couple to ‘ship. Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds, anyone?
Air Cannon In Mexico Used To Deliver Marijuana Across U.S. Border
Incoming! That’s what Mexican police were thinking when they found a van containing a 10-foot-long air cannon in it, Morning Edition host David Greene told us on Wednesday. What exactly was the cannon flinging? Pot. Yep, each cannon shot delivered 60 pounds of marijuana as it flung packages over the walls and fences along the Mexico-U.S. border. Looks like that plan just went up in smoke.
North Korea Accidentally Opens Access To Its Websites
Kim Jong Un’s lucky number has to be 28. What else could it be when North Korea only has 28 websites on its servers? As Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep reported on Thursday, someone in the country accidentally opened access to all the websites and researcher Matthew Bryant decided to have a look. He found all of the sites and then dumped all of the data onto Github, a hosting site for computer code, so the rest of world could see what’s behind the wall of the shielded society. Good news: North Koreans do appear to have a social network — it’s simply named “Friend.”
Women and children gather at a hand pump in Osukputu, Nigeria, which provides clean water for a community of around 800 people. Mustafah Abdulazizhide caption
toggle captionMustafah Abdulaziz
Photographer Mustafa Abdulaziz has dedicated the past four years of his life to one thing: taking pictures that tell stories about water.
From the barren riverbeds of India to the polluted rivers of São Paulo, Brazil, Abdulaziz has photographed in nine countries, seeking to document the global water woes: According to the World Health Organization, nearly 2 billion people “use a drinking water source contaminated with feces” and by 2025, half of the world’s population will face shortages in their water supply.
“I knew I wanted to dedicate myself to a long-term project, so I started researching global crisis and issues,” he said. “During my research I kept coming across water issues over and over again. So I began to look more into that.”
A boy swims in the Paraguay River in Brazil. The 1,600-mile river runs through several countries. Mustafah Abdulazizhide caption
toggle captionMustafah Abdulaziz
In the state of Mato Grosso, Brazil, forests and vegetation in the wetlands have been cleared to make way for cattle and staple crops. Mustafah Abdulazizhide caption
toggle captionMustafah Abdulaziz
He was surprised to see how many people are oblivious to the problem.
“People tell me they don’t even realize that water issues exist,” says Abdulaziz. “That itself is a huge issue, and something that made me have water as a subject.”
Since he began working on the “Water Stories” project, Abdulaziz has seen how rudimentary solutions can have a major impact.
Maryam Terkuma, 28, is a farmer in Nigeria. Her community had no clean water just a few years ago. WaterAid helped install a pump. Terkuma teaches the community how to store water safely — and keep latrines clean. Mustafah Abdulazizhide caption
toggle captionMustafah Abdulaziz
Women in Pakistan pull a container of water from a well in the Thar desert. They sometimes must haul water from a depth of 150 to 200 feet. Mustafah Abdulazizhide caption
toggle captionMustafah Abdulaziz
“A simple water pump allows people to feel invested in themselves and the health of their own community,” he says. It provides jobs for people to watch it, fix it, and even form committee boards around the pump.”
Abdulaziz plans to continue the project for another 11 years. “It’s a big topic and deserves a lot of time and attention,” he says. “It should be able to grow organically, have points of failure and success and look at this massive topic in as many ways as possible.”
Lake Hong in China’s Hubei Province, China, has seen its fish population drop and pollution increase because of fishing practices. Over the past 14 years, the government, local communities and the World Wildlife Fund have helped to restore the lake. Mustafah Abdulazizhide caption
toggle captionMustafah Abdulaziz
This week, photographs from five of the countries he’s visited went on display at New York City’s Photoville festival. His images will be shown in light boxes alongside another body of water that he’s photographed — New York’s East River.
After Juan Gabriel Vásquez won the IMPAC Dublin literary award in 2014 for his novel The Sound of Things Falling, the English-speaking world came to know what Latin American readers had already understood for some time: That Vásquez, whose fiction is a stark contrast to the dizzyingly fantastical stories American audiences had come to associate with Colombian literature, was a sign of something new and urgent — something steeped in the rawness of human existence.
Vásquez has spent his life bouncing around from France, Belgium, Barcelona, the United States, and Colombia. He is a transient of sorts, an artist bound only to his creation, someone who thrives off the feeling of “not really belonging somewhere.” And yet, his books seem to belong everywhere. There’s an air of permanence in his writing, a certain cruelty and lucidity that, while it speaks to the larger world, bears the weight of his homeland’s troubled history.
His new novel Reputations, translated by Anne McLean, focuses on the relationships between art and politics, love and memory, and the motivations that underly those relationships. Javier Mallarino is a respected — and feared — political cartoonist, a satirist who has spawned many enemies and admirers through his work at the newspaper El Independiente. Mallarino’s politics have long fueled his attacks, often putting his family in danger in the process. In his mind, he is Colombia’s moral compass, a sort of necessary and guiding light that can never be bought, bribed, or manipulated by political pressure.
But one day, after receiving an alarming letter calling him an “UNPATRIOTIC LIAR,” paranoia begins to settle in. “We know where you live and where your daughter goes to school,” the letter reads; a friend of Mallarino’s comments wryly that “you’re nobody in this country until somebody wants to hurt you.”
Early in the novel, Mallarino is invited to the prestigious Teatro Colón where his life’s work will be honored in the company of powerful people. Of course, he refuses the bulletproof Mercedes the government offers to send, choosing to take his own vehicle. “He wanted to arrive at his own apotheosis on foot, approach like everybody else,” free from the power of privilege and tributes. At the ceremony, to Mallarino’s surprise, they announce that they will be putting his likeness on a stamp.
“Life is the best caricaturist,” he says in his acceptance speech. “Life turns us into caricatures of ourselves.”
One of the temptations in Reputations — given Vásquez’s larger-than-life treatment of his main character — is to dismiss the fact that a newspaper satirist could exert so much influence on a country. But post-Charlie Hebdo, Mallarino’s status feels like a worthy plot device. What’s odd in Mallarino’s case, however, is how he has become somewhat part of the establishment he is infamous for criticizing with impunity.
The novel takes a turn when, on the night of the reception, Mallarino meets Samanta Leal, a young woman claiming to be a reporter interested in an interview. A meeting is arranged: Samanta will visit Mallarino at his home in the mountains in Bogotá.
While there the next day, she confesses to a deception; she’s been to the house before, as a little girl attending a party, and with Mallarino’s daughter Beatriz had gotten innocently drunk from the grownups’ wine. “I need you to jog your memory,” Samanta urges him. What follows is something of a hunt to find the wife of a congressman who may have assaulted Samanta at the party. This event, and the details of what occurred that day, inform much of the remainder of the book.
Vásquez is a fine writer, in some ways an even better technician than Gabriel García Márquez, Colombia’s best-loved son. Those who would consider that statement pure sacrilege are likely bringing sentimentality into the equation, recalling only the singularity of One Hundred Years of Solitude. But that aside, line for line Vásquez is a penetrating force, and the most pressing Colombian writer today.
I’d have loved to see Vásquez delve deeper into some of the consequences of art imitating life, where, in his words, “opinions have their effects.” But Reputations is a powerful, concentrated achievement. It makes clear that our memories, and even the things we’ve forgotten, can come back to haunt us and make us question the true cost of our actions.
Juan Vidal is a writer and critic for NPR Books. He’s on Twitter:@itsjuanlove
Amanda Shires’ new song “The Way It Dimmed” is Folk Alley’s pick for September’s mix. Josh Wool/Courtesy of the artisthide caption
toggle captionJosh Wool/Courtesy of the artist
Each month, NPR Music asks a panel of some of public radio’s finest hosts and music curators to share one new song they’re playing on repeat. In September’s mix, you’ll hear the latest from Amanda Shires, The Minders, Izo FitzRoy, Mick Jenkins and more.
Listen above to hear Folk Alley’s Elena See, opbmusic’s Jerad Walker and WDET’s Chris Campbell spin their selections, and read on for the full list.
Hear The Songs
Amanda Shires Joshua Black Wilkins/Courtesy of the artisthide caption
toggle captionJoshua Black Wilkins/Courtesy of the artist
Two minutes and eleven seconds. That’s how long it takes Amanda Shires to look back through her past and explore all the memories, both good and bad, she has of a former lover. Couldn’t we all spend hours and hours talking about the mistakes we’ve made and the loves we’ve lost? Not Shires. Her songwriting is just that concise; with careful and considered language choices, she’s able to create incredibly vivid images that resonate with anyone listening — like “A parade of images I never finished sorting through / Your hands laced in my belt loops,” or “Your fingerprints are still burned into my skin.” “The Way It Dimmed,” the opening track on Shires’ new release, My Piece Of Land, is undeniably catchy, thanks in part to husband Jason Isbell‘s surfy guitar and the incessant rhythms provided by Paul Slivka (bass) and Paul Griffith (drums). While Shires’ magnificent fiddle playing is sadly not front-and-center here, this song does give us a chance to fall in love with her voice and the stories she shares with it.
Note to self: Never piss off Martyn Leaper. The frontman for The Minders has a vicious pen that he wields like a sword on the Portland, Ore., band’s new track “Needle Doll.” The breakup song comes fast and hard with military metaphors, repeated calls for the use of black magic on an ex and extreme accusations of snootiness. But it’s not all doom and gloom: This is a hook-filled jam that reminds us just how good this band, which has close ties to the famed Elephant Six Collective (of Montreal, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Apples In Stereo), can be when it actually enters the studio. “Needle Doll” comes from The Minders’ first proper full-length album in a decade, Into The River. Let’s all hope Leaper has enough shade to throw around for a quicker follow-up next time.
Evoking shades of Jamiroquai and Brand New Heavies, one of 2016’s groovier musical finds has been London soul singer Izo FitzRoy’s track “Here I Come.” With production and remix assistance from noted Dutch DJ and producer Moods, the track boasts delicious horn licks, syrupy bass lines and tight percussion patterns. All of this makes for a great canvas onto which FitzRoy paints her powerhouse vocals, resulting in an extremely infectious, future-disco track that’s funky and danceable. The tune simultaneously has both an underground vibe and a mainstream sensibility, making it accessible to a diverse audience of music lovers and signaling that FitzRoy may be a major player in the global dance community in the years to come.
Andrew Davie and Kevin Jones of Bear’s Den didn’t expect to release their second album, Red Earth & Pouring Rain, as a duo. But the departure of bandmate Joey Haynes during the album’s recording gave Davie and Jones a looser rein. While the two Londoners cite Edward Hopper’s solitary painting Nighthawks and Bruce Springsteen as influences, it’s the open road — and miles traveled across the belly of America on a tour bus — that propels the title track. Steeped in voluptuous ’80s-era synths, the restless twang of electric guitar and Davie’s wistful plea, “Red Earth & Pouring Rain” is a daydreamer’s highway anthem.
Atmosphere has created seismic waves on the independent hip-hop scene since 1996, when the duo launched the Rhymesayers Entertainment label. What’s kept Atmosphere interesting and relevant for two decades is its core value of honesty — and there’s no shortage of that on Fishing Blues, its latest emotionally charged album. In “Perfect,” rapper Slug shows no hesitation in ripping into someone “who’s the opposite of truth, overproduced,” even as he embraces his contradictions as a “Southsider,” a “pop lifer” and a “Rubik’s cube.” There’s so much humility here, embodied in a willingness to accept, but not be content with, one’s flawed nature. Acknowledging mistakes, shortcomings and the fact that we live in a world that’s anything but black and white — it all makes this song pretty much perfect.
We’ve been waiting four years for new music from Erin Fein, the former frontwoman of the Champaign, Ill., band Headlights. Since that project came to an end, Fein has been producing experimental, dreamlike, electro-leaning songs under the moniker Psychic Twin. Her debut is Strange Diary, an album produced in the midst of the dissolution of her marriage and a move across the country to Brooklyn. Those major life changes have resulted in songs that sound like an updated version of Kate Bush or Siouxsie and the Banshees, including the great single “Lose Myself.”
The band formerly known as Viet Cong took on the less controversial name Preoccupations earlier this year, and its new, self-titled album also reflects change — not so much a reinvention, though, as a natural progression. The quartet transitions subtly from the traditional post-punk influences found on its previous full-length to a slightly more polished new-wave sound that evokes elements of early Devo and The Psychedelic Furs and radiates a mature, self-assured warmth. The dissonant angles of Viet Cong and the Cassette EP are smoothed, yet the music still packs the same lyrical and emotional intensity, accented by Matt Flegel’s distinctive growl. For a song that features the line “all dead inside / all gonna die,” there’s a lot of life to be found in “Stimulation.”
Shimmering, immersive and otherworldly, “Loveless” is a stop-you-in-your-tracks kind of song from a new band based in Los Angeles. Lo Moon is Matt Lowell (lead vocals, guitar and keyboards), Crisanta Baker (guitar, bass, keyboards and backing vocals), and multi-instrumentalist and principal guitarist Samuel Stewart. After relocating from London to L.A. in 2010, Stewart — the son of Dave Stewart (Eurythmics) and Siobhan Fahey (Shakespears Sister and Bananarama) — connected with Lowell and Baker, and the trio is currently working on its debut album, produced by François Tétaz and Death Cab for Cutie‘s Chris Walla and set for release in 2017. The cascading textures and keyboard and rhythmic crescendos of “Loveless” bring to mind the cinematic lift of Sigur Rós. The song has a big sound that’s as intimate as it is anthemic; all seven minutes are worthy of your attention.
With suggestions of Paul Brady and Paul Kelly, a hint of Bono and perhaps a kindred musical spirit in Ulster compatriot Van Morrison, Foy Vance has a way of going very deep very quickly. Yes, “She Burns” is another out of millions of songs about love and desire, but the evocative vocals, Celtic chordal underpinnings and minimal production pull you in like a whirlpool. And, as the lyrics suggest, you won’t want to come back up: “There are no markings on her country road / No signs that show the way back home / When you get there you won’t wanna go.” Now that he’s signed to Ed Sheeran‘s label, let’s hope it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world gets tangled up in Vance’s soulful sound.
Mick Jenkins Lawrence Agyei/Courtesy of the artisthide caption
toggle captionLawrence Agyei/Courtesy of the artist
Mick Jenkins feat. BADBADNOTGOOD, ‘Drowning’
from The Healing Component
On the heels of his successful mixtapes The Waters and Waves, the Alabama-born, Chicago based hip-hop artist Mick Jenkins gives us The Healing Component, a poignant debut album ripe with urgent social commentary. In “Drowning,” Jenkins steps outside of his commanding rap voice to sing images of despair and anxiety and repeat the haunting, topical refrain “I can’t breathe.” BADBADNOTGOOD handles the production, composing a brooding instrumental that perfectly frames the song’s vivid narrative. Jenkins has long used water as a metaphor for truth, purity and cleansing; in “Drowning,” he points to its ability to overwhelm and suffocate. (Perhaps that’s a commentary on humanity’s capability to both nurture and destroy.) Ultimately, Jenkins tells us that only once we are unified can we combat inequality and save one another from drowning.
Democrat Hillary Clinton, left, and Republican Donald Trump, right, will debate for the first time Monday night. AFP/AFP/Getty Imageshide caption
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Lots of issues that affect Americans’ daily lives will likely come up at Monday night’s first presidential debate.
Here’s a cheat sheet of what to know about a host of issues of significance, from taxes and jobs to the military and immigration:
Donald Trump wants to cut income tax rates while capping deductions for the wealthy. He would also reduce the business tax rate to 15 percent and eliminate the estate tax. The conservative Tax Foundation estimates that his plan would reduce federal revenue by $4.4 to 5.9 trillion over the next decade, which is a lot, but down from $10 trillion estimated from his original plan. Some of that could be offset by economic growth, but even using “dynamic scoring,” the foundation says the plan cuts tax revenue by $2.6 to 3.9 trillion over 10 years. (The higher figure is if the 15 percent business tax rate is applied to “pass through” entities.)
Donald Trump’s series of tax cuts and military spending could cost between $3 trillion and $6 trillion over a decade. Clinton’s tax increases on the wealthy would bring in $1 trillion or more. Domenico Montanaro/Scott Horsley/NPR/Tax Foundation/Tax Policy Centerhide caption
toggle captionDomenico Montanaro/Scott Horsley/NPR/Tax Foundation/Tax Policy Center
The biggest beneficiaries of Trump’s tax cuts are the wealthy. The top 1 percent of earners see their after-tax income rise by between 10.2 and 16 percent. Overall savings would be less than 1 percent.
Hillary Clinton would raise taxes on the wealthy, especially those making more than $5 million per year (two out of every 10,000 people), limit the value of certain deductions and increase the estate tax and make more people pay it. Currently, only estates worth $5.5 million or more pay taxes on inheritance. Clinton would lower that threshold to $3.5 million per person and $7 million per couple.
On Thursday, Clinton proposed raising the estate tax from 40 to 45 percent. For estates worth $500 million for a single person and $1 billion for a couple, it would go up to 65 percent, the highest rate since the 1980s. Just 223 estates that were taxed in 2014 were worth $50 million or more. The rate is similar to the billionaire tax Clinton’s Democratic primary rival Bernie Sanders proposed. Clinton’s proposed tax increases could bring in up to $260 billion over 10 years. The Tax Policy Center estimates Clinton’s tax plan overall would raise more than $1 trillion over a decade, with three-quarters of that coming from top 1 percent of income earners.
Private-sector employers have added 15.1 million jobs since the trough of the recession in 2010. Unemployment, which peaked at 10 percent in October of 2009, has fallen to 4.9 percent. Unemployment among African Americans, which peaked at 16.8 percent in March of 2010, has also fallen to 8.1 percent, cut more than half yet still almost double the overall national figure. Unemployment among African American young people is not 58 percent, as Trump claims, but 26.1 percent.
For a comparison of past presidents: The strongest average yearly jobs gains for each of the presidents over the last 40 years — Bill Clinton (2.9 million), followed by Carter (2.6 million), Reagan (2 million), Obama (1.3 million, as of January), H.W. Bush (659,250), and W. Bush (160,125).
Trump has made an anti-trade message the centerpiece of his jobs plan. Clinton came out against the Obama-proposed Asia trade deal. Clinton championed it as secretary of state, calling it the “gold standard,” but she backed away during her primary against Bernie Sanders.
Trump has vowed to spend “at least double” Clinton’s infrastructure plan, though he has not laid out specific details. That means Trump’s infrastructure plan could cost north of half-a-trillion dollars. Clinton has proposed $275 billion in infrastructure spending over five years. Clinton is also proposing small-business tax cuts, investment in solar panels and scientific research.
In addition to infrastructure spending, Trump’s plan centers on the growth-power of tax cuts; reducing regulations, especially ones aimed at the coal and natural gas industry and waterways, including “the smallest streams”; scrapping the Paris Climate Agreement; lobbying TransCanada to reapply for a permit for the Keystone Pipeline; expanding oil drilling; expanding childcare options (that would be difficult to pay for); cracking down on crime; and, of course, doing away with Obamacare.
Last week, median family income finally rose last year — by 5.2 percent, the first real increase since the Great Recession. Adjusting for inflation, the median is still slightly below the pre-recession peak of 2007, and below the all-time high which was reached in 1999. All races saw gains last year, with Hispanics seeing a 6.1 percent increase, whites 4.4 percent, and African Americans 4.1 percent.
The poverty rate fell 1.2 percentage points, or 3.5 million people, to 13.5 percent in 2015. Still, 43.1 million Americans were living in poverty. In Obama’s first year in office, the poverty rate was 14.3 percent. It peaked at 15.1 percent in 2010.
Some 45.7 million Americans were on food stamps (SNAP benefits) last year. In Obama’s first year in office, there were 33.5 million. The number on food stamps peaked in 2013 at 47.6 million.
In 2015, the U.S. had a trade deficit with the rest of the world of $746 billion. In other words, the U.S. imports more than it is exporting. In the first seven months of 2016, the trade deficit was $424 billion.
Most of that deficit is with one country — China. In 2015, the U.S. had a trade deficit with China of $367 billion. In the first seven months of 2016, it was $191 billion.
So in both cases, the trade deficit is on pace to shrink, slightly this year.
The controversial health law, the signature legislative achievement of the Obama presidency, has pushed uninsured rate to an all-time low of just over 9 percent, while extending coverage to some 20 million people (including Medicaid expansion, exchanges, and young adults on family plans). The uninsured rate would be lower still had the 19 holdout states expanded Medicaid.
Competition on the exchanges, though, is shrinking. Fewer insurance companies are playing, and 19 percent of exchange enrollees will have just one company to choose from in 2017. (That’s up from 2 percent in 2016.) Some 62 percent of enrollees will still have at least three choices. The problem tends to be worse in rural areas and in the South.
Premiums in the exchanges are on the rise. McKinsey Center looked at 18 states and found an average increase of 11 percent for the benchmark plan next year. Some of that increase will be absorbed by the federal government, as most exchange subscribers receive a subsidy. A study by the left-leaning Urban Institute found that even without the subsidy, exchange plans cost an average of 10 percent less than employer-provided coverage.
Both Clinton and Trump want to lift the caps imposed on military spending by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (sometimes called the “sequester.”) Clinton also wants to lift the corresponding caps on domestic spending, whereas Trump wants additional cuts in domestic spending to help offset the cost of his military buildup.
Trump wants to grow the active-duty Army from 475,000 to 540,000 soldiers, increase the number of Marine battalions from 24 to 36 (4,000 to 10,000 Marines), increase the number of Navy ships from 280 (planned) to 350 and add dozens of additional fighter aircraft. The New York Times estimates Trump’s plan would costs $80 to $90 billion per year.
For context, per the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, the Obama fiscal year 2017 budget calls for $590 billion in Defense spending, including $58.8 billion for overseas contingency operations or war-fighting. Adjusting for inflation, the overall defense budget is down 25 percent from the peak in fiscal year 2010, at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s still about 12 percent higher in real terms than the average during the Reagan administration. (Excluding overseas contingency operations, the base defense budget is down about 11 percent from 2010, and roughly equal to spending during the Reagan years.)
Defense spending amounts to about 3 percent of gross domestic product and 14.2 percent of total federal spending. (The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments says defense as a percentage of GDP or federal spending is a poor yardstick for assessing defense needs, but a useful measure of affordability.)
Donald Trump proposes increasing the number of Border Patrol agents from 21,000 to 26,000, which is actually less than the number proposed in the 2013 Senate immigration bill. Domenico Montanaro/Scott Horsley/NPR/U.S. Border Patrolhide caption
The Border Patrol has doubled in size since 9/11 to more than 21,000. Trump has proposed adding about 5,000 more. The bipartisan Senate bill in 2013 would have gone further, to 38,000.
Meanwhile, apprehensions at the Southwest border — a proxy for attempted crossings — have dropped by 79 percent from the peak in 2000. The Pew Research Center reports more Mexicans left the U.S. than entered between 2009 and 2014. For Central American immigrants, 122,000 families were apprehended in the first 11 months of the fiscal year, so on pace to match 2014 after a drop last year.
There were of immigrants in the U.S. illegally is about 11.1 million, as of 2014. That number has stabilized, per Pew, since the end of the Great Recession. The decline in immigrants coming from Mexico has been offset by growth of immigrants from Asia, Central America and sub-Saharan Africa.
Deportations increased during Obama’s first four years in office, peaking in 2012 at nearly 410,000. Since then, deportations have been dropping, reaching a low of 235,000 last year. Since 2014, the administration has focused on deporting recent arrivals and criminals, with fewer deportations of long-time residents whose only crime was crossing the border. In all, about 2.8 million people have been deported under Obama.
Nearly one-in-five visitors who overstay their visas are from Canada, more than twice the number from Mexico.
Customers use interactive kiosks to place orders at Eatsa, a fully automated fast food restaurant in San Francisco. Justin Sullivan/Getty Imageshide caption
toggle captionJustin Sullivan/Getty Images
Much of the anger and anxiety in the 2016 election is fueled by the sense that economic opportunity is slipping away for many Americans. This week, as part of NPR’s collaborative project with member stations,A Nation Engaged, we’re asking the question: What can be done to create economic opportunity for more Americans?
When we talk about the economy, we spend a lot of time talking about jobs — how to create more of them and how to replace the ones being lost. But what if we’re entering an automated future where there won’t be enough jobs for the people who need them? If this happens, how will people pay for food and shelter?
In Silicon Valley, a growing number of those in the tech sector believe that one solution may be the universal basic income. Simply put, the idea is that Uncle Sam will cut citizens a regular paycheck whether they work or not.
Misha Chellam is a tech entrepreneur in San Francisco and is part of the burgeoning basic income movement here. He took me to Eatsa, a healthy fast-food joint, to show me why many in tech are coming to this conclusion.
If Apple opened a fast-food place, it would look sort of like Eatsa. The space is bright and the decor is sparse in that trendy modern way. But when we enter the restaurant, I notice right away there are no cashiers to take our order.
“That’s part of the magic here,” Chellam says. “We’re not going to order from anybody. We’re going to order from computers.”
Chellam and I walk up to one of the iPads mounted on the wall. The first step is to swipe your credit card, which Chellam does.
“Now what are we going to eat?” Chellam asks after his credit card is accepted.
Eatsa’s thing is quinoa bowls, and you can see photos of its offerings on the screen. I go for the burrito quinoa bowl and Chellam orders the kale.
A couple of clicks later we’re done. There are about 15 to 20 customers in the restaurant, but just one Eatsa employee.
“I have this gut sense from having been in the Valley for a while now that there will be a coming wave of automation that’s going to get rid of a lot of jobs,” Chellam says, back at his office in downtown San Francisco.
A customer picks up her lunch from an automated cubby at Eatsa. The restaurant has eliminated server, wait staff and cashier jobs with computer automation. Justin Sullivan/Getty Imageshide caption
toggle captionJustin Sullivan/Getty Images
It’s unclear whether technology will eventually reduce the total number of jobs in the country. While technological advances make some jobs obsolete, the past has shown that tech has also created new opportunities.
But advancements in artificial intelligence are intensifying this debate. In Silicon Valley, there are lots of experiments in automation. There’s the robot at Lowe’s home improvement store in Sunnyvale, Calif., that checks inventory. There’s the “robot butler” working at a hotel in Cupertino. And then there’s Uber, which is experimenting with driverless taxis and trucks.
“And that would affect 3.5 million truck drivers, another 5 million people who support the truck-driving industry,” Chellam says. “And that’s just one example of automation.”
Chellam says software is eating white-collar jobs, too, and everyone from bookkeepers to doctors and lawyers will be affected.
“Take the truck driver example,” he says. “What are you going to retrain 3.5 million people to do in a short enough period of time?”
Chellam believes as technology replaces more workers, the traditional 40-hour-a-week job could become a thing of the past. If that happens, how will families get health insurance or save for retirement?
Some experts say the only answer is a government-guaranteed paycheck that would allow people to buy food and housing. That would not only help the individuals but would help keep economic wheels spinning and generate tax revenues.
“Silicon Valley’s interest in the universal basic income is one part guilt and one part optimism,” says Natalie Foster, a fellow at the Institute for the Future, a nonprofit research organization in Palo Alto.
Some technologists suggest setting the basic income at $10,000 a year. Others have proposed raising carbon emission taxes to pay for it. Foster says there hasn’t been enough research on basic income to have serious policy discussions.
She that right now tech workers are in the “inquiry and research phase.” They’re holding meetups and hosting panels asking what would it mean to give people money they didn’t work for, Foster says.
In Oakland, they’re about to find out. Y Combinator is funding a research project on basic income, where it will pay 100 people enough money for food and shelter — no strings attached. The prestigious tech accelerator helped launch companies that include Airbnb and Reddit.
Y Combinator declined requests for an interview, but in a blog post its president, Sam Altman, predicted that “at some point in the future, as technology continues to eliminate traditional jobs and massive new wealth gets created,” some version of basic income will be rolled out nationally.
The debate about whether machines are taking our jobs is beside the point, says Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook who is active in the basic income movement. He says that whether you like the idea or not, there won’t be an alternative because decent-paying jobs are disappearing for millions of people.
And he says that shift has already left middle-class Americans economically insecure. A recent study by the Federal Reserve found that 46 percent of Americans surveyed didn’t have enough cash to cover a $400 emergency expense. That feeling of insecurity is evident in this tumultuous presidential election.
“I think there is a sense that our economy is broken in many ways,” Hughes says. “But rather than try to restructure our economy so it looks like the 1950s, I think we have to be honest with ourselves.”
Hughes says that means basic income isn’t an idea for the distant future but one we need to consider today.